The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – High Risk Fire Hazards & Precautions – Part 96

October 7, 2019 1:47 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, our aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 95, LWF discussed the fire risks present in hospital laundries and what actions should be taken to avoid fires. In part 96, we will look at radioactive substances and registration procedures.

The Radioactive Substances Act 1993 requires that any healthcare organisation which keeps or uses radioactive materials should register, a process which is completed through the relevant Environment Agency local office.

The use of radioactive materials in a healthcare environment is fairly commonplace. Departments such as radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, radiology, oncology, pathology and pharmacy are all likely users of radioactive materials and other departments may require the substances for research projects.

While some areas of a healthcare environment, such as the laundries discussed in the last blog, are more prone to fire incidents by their nature, this is not the case with radioactive substances. The need for enhanced precautions comes not from increased fire risk but rather from the potential for increased harm if such an event were to occur.

Radioactive substances are kept in storage facilities which are secure and/or refrigerated and can be locked. The fire-resistant construction of the departments in which the radioactive materials are kept will also provide some protection against fire. One precaution which certainly should be taken is that no flammable materials should be kept within rooms containing radioactive substances, to further lower the potential for fire.

Local policies should be in place to incorporate the general principles involved in complying with the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999. The policies should contain contingency plans for any foreseeable incident and should also include any risks associated with a fire outbreak.

The local Fire Authority should be informed of all normal storage locations of radioactive materials in healthcare premises and the nature and activity of the materials. In addition, mandatory notices will be displayed to alert people to the presence of radioactive sources and electrically-powered units generating radiation. In a fire situation, an X-ray unit, for example, would not be a risk as it is isolated from the mains power at the point the fire alarm is raised. The genuine risks from radioactive sources in a fire situation must be identified and all relevant information passed to the Fire Services.

In part 97 of this series, LWF will continue to look at radioactive substances and registration procedures. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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